John Williams: Olympic Fanfare and Theme


Commissioned by the Los Angeles Olympic Organising Committee for the 1984 Summer Olympics, John Williams had a big task on his hands. The premiere took place in July of 1984 at the Hollywood Bowl, which was then broadcast across the USA. Williams then conducted the Olympic premieres the next day at the Los Angeles Coliseum on July 28th 1984. Known for his work with film, Williams was initially unsure about the commission, however, after some thought he decided to press on:


“I’m not an avid sports fan, and I have never been to an Olympics. But from watching Olympics competition on television, I gained a feeling that I aspired to make the theme of Fanfare. A wonderful thing about the Olympics is that young athletes strain their guts to find and produce their best efforts. The human spirit stretching to prove itself is also typical of what musicians attempt to achieve in a symphonic effort. It is difficult to describe how I feel about these athletes and their performances without sounding pretentious, but their struggle ennobles all of us. I hope I express that in this piece.” Source


The Music

Opening with a brass fanfare that is intricate, bold and fit for a big event. As the music gets quieter a snare drum emerges to lead into the more lyrical section led by the strings. Every so often the brass enter with their opening fanfare which penetrates the more regal atmosphere created by the strings. The brass and woodwind go head to head with opposing themes, which turns into a frantic scurrying sequence started by the strings. A bold orchestration of the opening fanfare ensues and as the brass and percussion unite before the main regal theme returns the tempo keeps very steady. A new string motif flutters within the mix of themes. 

As the orchestra play more themes in unison, the snare drum and crash cymbals keep the tempo moving along. After a quick flourish the brass play their memorable fanfare once more before the climax of the theme emerges. As the orchestra land on the final chord the theme concludes triumphantly. 


Ⓒ Alex Burns

Happy Reading!

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